Matthias, p.9
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       Matthias, p.9
 

           Ariana Kenny

  Chapter 7 The New Light of Night

  Leaving the room, I felt like I was gliding instead of walking. Each stride felt enormous and if you told me I was indestructible, I would have near believed it. And I was strong -unbelievably strong. Jumping the banister ahead of Cassie and Cam, and dropping a whole storey from the upper level where our room was located, I made it to the car before them. I leant against the car and watched them walk towards me more music video than reality. Cassie in her feather edged slinky black number, her blonde hair bouncing down one shoulder and pulled away from her neck on the other. She grinned at me and it was magic.

  Cam walked like a woman on a mission, short cropped hair sleeked back against her skull and flicking out at the base. She wore a deep purple shade of lipstick to compliment her dark nature, and her sequined gown made her seem to sparkle all over. “Don’t draw attention” she commanded as she would a child before she handed me the keys, proceeding to walk past me.

  As I drove I felt like the car and I were one – we merged together flying down the road. “I feel wonderful; I feel amazing” I jabbered like a kid hopped up on too much caffeine.

  “Just watch the road will you” muttered Cam; Cassie stared out the window smiling.

  “Why?” I asked. “Can you die from an accident? Do you get scarred, or do you just heal like Wolverine off X men?” Cam rolled her eyes again.

  “We heal” Cassie replied to my question, “But you won’t be able to as quickly. You might feel invincible but you aren’t.”

  “So what can I do?” I asked the obvious question.

  Cassie answered me: “You are strong, fast – but not as fast as us. With time you could be. You can hear better, see better and feel things more astutely.”

  “What is the difference between us, then? Aren’t I supposed to be stronger than you or something?” I asked the next obvious question.

  “Ha!” Cam sniggered at me “We are harder to kill, we do not age, and we are like this always.” She smiled smuggle before adding: “Anything you can do, we can do better”.

  “Then what do you need me for!” I spat back at her, my new feelings of invincibility suddenly waning.

  Cassie took my arm and I turned to her “Like I said, your blood lends you these instincts, these gifts more so than any regular human. And you are stronger than us. Just not yet faster, but you will be with practice”.

  “What practice?” said Cam from the back. “This is a one night gig for him. He said so already”. Irrationally, I felt bad thinking about that.

  “So, how do the fangs come out?” I asked. It sounded silly, but in all honesty I had no idea. I only saw them properly when Cam and Viktor took out those guys back at the club. She leaned forward now next to my ear and breathed: “It’s simple really. You think about what you want to eat and …” a hissing sound exploded and I caught a glimpse of shining white fangs beside my face. Instinctually I stopped breathing.

  “That’s enough!” Said Cassie sharply. “We’ll be there soon”. Cam sat back and looked quite satisfied with herself.

  “What else do I need to know” I asked matter-of-factly as I stared out the window. I felt like I was looking out on the night horizon for the first time. I could see every outline of every rock and if I focussed hard I could see the movements of every warm blooded creature out there like I was looking through an infrared filter. Every movement caught my eye.

  Cassie regarded me with a vague smile “Garlic and crosses are out. Don’t do a thing.”

  “Sunlight wont kill, but it will burn and slow us down” advised Cam from the back. “The older the less the effects are however your powers are reduced during the day hours. It takes over five hundred years to be able to walk around even a little at least during the daylight.”

  “Pure metals can burn the skin, but if inserted in the skin can incapacitate us” Cassie offered this without hesitation, but Cam clearly was not impressed. She sat up.

  “Want to tell him how to kill us too? Have some sense Cassie”.

  “We ask him to trust us” Cassie pointed out. “Most of us have an almost extra sensation, or recognition type of effect – helps us pick out people’s states of mind and topics of conversation to bond or influence them with” Cassie was being quite open.

  “Like lure them in” I clarified.

  She looked at me knowingly and continued on “Salt water doesn’t agree with us either. But we can stand it – just. No trips to the beach” she smiled.

  “No beach – got it, but what’s with the sand. The magic dirt.” I asked.

  Cam fielded this one. “There is more to the world than most assume, and it is at everyone’s fingertips. The sand and the drawings – they are regular magik – nothing special. A very good friend of mine taught me some basics. How to hide, to protect, to expel….”

  “So you’re a witch too?” I queried. Which one would take priority I wondered, if one were both.

  “I wish” she replied.

  “So you can’t use any of that over Belil?” I reasoned.

  “Belil is over 1,500 years old. He has great power, and great brutality. Parlour tricks alone won’t work on him”. Cam replied.

  “Don’t suppose there is anything I can do to reason with him either then?” It was a futile question, I knew.

  “He left his care of humans behind a long time ago. Maybe it’s with age. If you see everyone around you die off, there aren’t any connections left to make you feel human–ish anymore.” Cassie sighed.

  Cam murmured her agreement. “When I was first born into this life I saw him slaughter a whole family because he wanted one person to give up that amulet he wears around his neck now. The father of the family guarded it, and he knew what he had, so even as his children arrived home, one at a time, from school, from work, he did nothing to stop what was going to happen to them. Then Belil dragged the man’s wife out the front and killed her too. I didn’t really understand why the man wouldn’t give it up until later. Belil finally got it when a neighbour came home at the wrong time. The neighbour could go in and get it you see. Because of the magic surrounding it, only a human could offer it to one of us. We couldn’t just take it. So Belil threatened this neighbour with killing his whole family unless he went in, killed the owner and give him the amulet. So he did it, of course. Then when he gave it to Belil, he was killed anyway. And his family.”

  “Why wouldn’t he give it up?” I asked with a shiver.

  Cam was quiet so Cassie expanded it for me “It allowed him to open a door way to the ‘OldOnes’. The ones that created us vampires, a very, very long time ago. Belil keeps them like pets somewhere. It’s a sick symbiotic relationship – he keeps them contained but feeds them a steady diet of human blood. In exchange they guard and allow access to portals to other dimensions of existence. Like where my sister is.”

  “You cant use your magic against him – like you did with the magic dirst back at the room?” I queried.

  Cam spoke up to break the awkwardness “So magic, or what of it I know anyway, won’t help. He can use it as much as I. Talismans, amulets, concoctions, sigils and … magic dirt” she smiled after she said this. I had become so used to her being sincere all the time it seemed oddly warming and surprising to see her smile like that.

  Pressing on, it didn’t take long to arrive at our destination. First we drove past and circled the block first so that we could get a look at it. Another club, but this time it was situated just at the outskirts of a fairly large town. There were giant griffins outside the front, painted black and resembling more gargoyle than griffin.

  “Why clubs all the time?” I asked absent mindedly taking in the look of the place.

  “Fresh meat,” replied Cassie. “Lots of people, its dark, money is good and if you work it right, the ones who come are usually either drunk, on something, or feel like they are missing something. That way if they get taken, there are a whole lot of ways to excuse what happens to them, or they di
smiss anything odd they experience or see.”

  “Or are not believed.’ pointed out Cam.

  “They are practically like visiting the grocery store. Young willing people lining up to come in and get a taste of the nightlife” continued Cass. “It’s not all bad though, we can help people find things they have lost you know. About themselves. Comes with being able to get a feel for the person, being able to see into them enough. Of course you have to want to do something nice with that information.”

  As we drove past, a bouncer stared straight through us and smirked. He spoke to a man behind him who disappeared into the club purposefully. I realised why we were so dressed up. The place was really up market. Very stylish.”

  “They know we’re here” I stated.

  “They were always going to. There won’t be any problems getting in, or speaking to Belil. It’s what happens next that matters.” I looked at Cass, so confident.

  We parked and Cam and Cassie each one took one of my arms and walked into the building. If I thought the place was good looking from the outside, the inside was magnificent. Plush, with an elegant entrance lined with red velvet, long drapes and a dual door which no doubt led to the club itself.

  A barely dressed girl with long flowing dark hair halfway down her back leant over towards over her desk.

  She had three stamps in front of her. “Your pleasure?” she purred at us.

  “What do you think?” Cam said staring her down. The woman picked up the red stamp and motioned for my hand. She stamped it, smiled and said “No charge, but only if you can come back and say hello to me later.” I looked at the stamp and it was a picture of a snake.

  Cassie leant in and held my arm tighter “It means you are taken, and a willing participant”.

  “Are there many of those” I asked as Cam pushed through the doors into the strobe lights and Cassie and I walked behind.

  “You might be surprised” Cassie responded.

  Inside the place was not at all what I expected. I had anticipated unprecedented glamour with some kind of decadence-white tablecloths and flowing champagne perhaps. Instead, like the last club at the factory, there were dark velvet chairs and drapery in red, purple and black. There was a dark backdrop with golden net like dividers forming sections and alcoves for groups of people to congregate. The bar ran the length of one of the sides of the room and was completely kitted out. There were torches on the walls and two gilded cages with girls inside. As they danced, snakes encircled their bodies. Feathered masks and head dresses swayed. I followed Cam down the staircase as I took in what was going on around me.

  There were couples and groups talking, stroking each other just like any club but in other spots there were people entering or exiting smaller rooms via black curtains, accompanied by flushed faces and blood trails on lips, necks or wrists. The music pumped across the room and through my body, driven, lustful and making my heart pound. I was officially in the rabbit hole.

  Cassie might have seemed confident, but I knew that she feared for something, for her sister, where she might be, and if she could pull this off and free her. I stared at the outline of her face, her golden hair framing it perfectly and the flush of what I knew to be someone else’s blood in her cheeks. I knew Michael and I were secondary and speculated for a moment if she was getting old enough to become detached from humanity, like she mentioned of Belil. I felt drawn to her nonetheless. I felt pain her pain. Blood lust, blood bond or not, I didn’t really care. She must have noticed me looking because she slowed her walking and squeezed my hand as she leaned over to me.

  “Don’t worry” she said very sincerely to me. She looked me in the eye: “You’ll do great. You’re strong, stronger than he is in spite of your years, and you are fighting for someone you love. That’s worth a thousand years where we come from. Passion is often lacking in our kind. So we don’t get to use it for our benefit. Michael and you will be back on the road and in that car before the night is through.

  “What’s her name?” I asked of her. She looked at me quizzically. “Your sister” I clarified.

  She gave a half smile. “Violet. Her Name is Violet”.

  We walked towards a door in the back, it had a raised griffin on it again – a reoccurring theme in this place. It opened automatically as we approached.

  Belil sat in an entirely black room at a single round wooden table sipping what looked to be red wine – though I doubted it. As we entered his gaze shifted to us without alarm, and back to his drink. “Your friend screamed a lot.” he said so casually - and it got the reaction he wanted. I roared and lunged toward him only to find three vampires grab me and hold me down – one of which was Jorge, one Carl and another smaller bald man. I let them still me just so I could try and control my breathing, the surge of power and sensations pouring through me bubbling against my senses so my head began to reel again.

  Cassie and Cam stared Belil down for a moment before Cassie advanced and stated her intentions clearly. “We all know why we are here. We just want her released. Violet doesn’t deserve this punishment. Give us the amulet, and tell us where she is and we’ll go. We won’t interfere.”

  Viktor walked past me and to the door when Belil started to talk. “Maybe, Belil,” Viktor started, “Cassandra speaks in earnest. All she cares about is Violet. Look how often she speaks of her.”

  Without turning towards him, Belil dressed Viktor down. “Viktor, if I ever want you opinion, I will ask for it. Just do your job and get the door.” Viktor shuffled off less than pleased and Belil turned once more to our small crew. “Let’s make something clear, Cassandra. You know you need my blood to open the seal, and you are unprepared for what you need to do to get to it from me in the first place.” He sighed, nodding at me as he spoke next. “With the boy, I think I may have underestimated you. You know I can’t let him go with you. You would in time figure out how to help him come for me, take over what I have created and I can’t have that.” Belil’s words rang true I was sure., but I was relieved that he didn’t know they had already worked out how to make me more than I had ever been before. Belil continued thoughtfully: “Maybe if you were willing to leave him here….” he indicated “…I’ll let her go”.

  Jorge, grabbed me by the throat with his one arm, and lifted me off my feet, free of the others. “Yes. leave him with me. I will make sure I take care of him. One piece at a time”. He looked at me intently. “You know my arm is already growing back, but yours…. yours will not. Nor will any of the other parts. You aren’t even as strong as they said you would be. What a disappointment you can’t even struggle against me. I own you….” OK. That part was enough. I had taken in the lay of the land, understood what was happening and reached the end. I hated this guy, I had to find out if Michael was still alive and I was growing impatient. Jorge looked towards the others in the room, a small collection half of which already looked familiar. “See he is as insignificant as the others, just mortal, just an ordinary….” I grabbed his throat mid sentence and crushed. It gave way and his face crunched and crackled oddly, his body decaying to a skeletal form and crumbling to dust in my fingers. Big fanfare, quick end: I thought.

  Belil jumped to his feet, enraged, as were the bald man and Carl. They tried to grab hold of me again but I shook them off. Carl ended up across the room and the bald one picked himself up from the floor defensively. I smiled at him smugly. I had a renewed sense of self confidence, especially when I saw Belil’s face.

  Belil regained his composure and looked at me. “Enough playing with these girls” he said. “Your family and mine enjoyed a pact a thousand years ago. One you should honour. I am actually your mother’s only reason for living. I took pity on her great, great grandfather’s ancestor in the year 520. He lay dying from the plague and met me on the side of the road where his family had abandoned him to die. Imagine that. His own family threw him to the side of the road to improve their chances of survival” he glanced briefly in the direction of Cassie and
Cam before continuing. “So I gave him life, and as he fed on me he promised to give me undying tribute. And he did. He even gave me his first born son” I shuddered. “I mingled our blood and he grew to be stronger than imagined. And here we are all these years later. With me asking you to continue the agreement your ancestor and I had.”

  “So why didn’t you just kill him, why help him live in the first place”. I asked Belil.

  “Why not?” Belil asked, surprise spelt on his face in an untrustworthy fashion.

  I narrowed my eyes “He became your ticket to free meals didn’t he? Providing someone to drink from willingly, which let you survive didn’t he?” I confronted. I did not care what he thought; his manipulation was clear and not thought through at all. I had expected more of this man, 1,000+ years in the making.

  Belil fumbled and stumbled all of a sudden, and I realised he was just another man. All the failings, just with supernatural markers. Without his bodyguards, faced with an equal in strength he crumbled just like any tyrant. “It was not like that” he said meekly. “I was revered.” He remarked, more angered now.

  “And that matters to me because….” I replied. “I have been threatened, my friend might be dead, I want to end you right now, not team up with you”.

  Belil’s eyes reddened “What would your family say?” came the response.

  “They’d probably tell me to rip your head off and make it home alive. Not to buy into ancestral crap that can’t be proved, and believe a history written by the sole survivor.” I moved progressively towards him and he backed off.

  “What have you done you idiots.” Belil glared at Cassie and Cam. “You have no idea how things could have been. Now he knows what he can do, you’ll be lucky if he will let you live….”. He turned to me and lunged, but I grabbed him in response and slammed him in to the nearest wall. It was covered in spikes and other odd looking decorations, but that was when I realised they weren’t decorations. He threw a sharp silver stake at me and though I dodged it still managed to carve a slice into my right arm. It struck the bald man who was standing behind me and he screamed and seared in agony. Smoke rose from the wound as he fumbled to grasp it to pull it out. Cam jumped at him and drove him to the floor, the stake piercing him through and a gurgling and twisting accompanied his end.

  Carl fled from the room as I ran up to Belil grabbing his arms and lifting him up from the ground. Belil flipped over me though, taking hold of my throat and pulling me backwards until he brought his cheek against my face. I choked and stopped breathing as he tightened his grip on my throat, but from how he held me, I couldn’t pull away.

  “You may think you’re strong,” Belil hissed, “But I am older and stronger than you. Stop fighting me and do as I say before I teach you a lesson you’ll remember for the rest of eternity.”

  Anger welled and I pushed back into the wall behind me driving Belil against the wall and knocking him off my back. I quickly grabbed at the amulet around his neck, tossing it to Cassie, before I snatched Belil by the throat and smashed him into the wall, twice. I felt him weaken under my hold when Viktor caught my eye. I noticed he was just standing, watching from the doorway. Though I expected him to come to Belil’s aid, Viktor simply shrugged and I lingered on the thought how easy it was for people in power to lose sight of what they truly have control over.

  “Viktor.” Belil croaked.

  “Don’t look at me, I just get the door.” Viktor said defiantly as he closed the door separating us from the club itself. He was now on the other side, and Belil was in with us.

  “Where is Michael?” I demanded. “Where!?”

  Belil struggled, livid: “In the back, he’s still alive.”

  “Show me.” I thrust him towards the back of the room and he scrambled towards a door in the back wall next to a great dark door with red patterning. Cassie threw the amulet to Cam who was closest and she slotted it into the side of the door which promptly opened with a groan to reveal a cave hollowed out in the earth. Removing the amulet once again, Cam secured it around her neck, but kept her fingers curled around it nonetheless. The ceiling was immensely high, but the room was almost completely dark except for lighting from scattered room lanterns. There was a long stone table with complimenting stone benches surrounding it.

  As we stepped in to the room, Belil leading the way, I saw carvings across every wall, and then I saw Michael lying on the floor, bleeding from four bite marks across his neck, chest and arms. I sprang to reach him but Cassie held me back. I looked back confused and then I saw it. A black ‘thing’ in the dark. It looked at me with glowing eyes, half up the wall, half on the floor. That was when I noticed the rest of them. Several, almost shapeless things scuttling in to the dark as Belil walked through calming them and ushering them to the side. Michael looked white, drained but I could see he was still breathing.

  “As long as we hold the amulet, they won’t be able to touch us.” Cam said to me in a hushed tone.

  Belil walked towards one of eight oval carvings in the walls of this room, and sliced his hand on a small blade sheathed against his wrist. He pressed his hand to the wall and a low rumbling was heard. The seal shined white, then red and the wall began to crack away. The creatures in the darkness that had been ushered to the side by Belil, now fled the scene to the farthest corner, their eyes glowing green in the dark.

  A figure fell from the wall then, dropping to its hands and knees, charred, hairless and disfigured. Two giant fangs were clearly identifiable. She was naked, disoriented and animalistic. Deranged was a word I would use to describe the figure as she stood up, her flesh peeling and her eyes burning. She screamed a releasing, deafening scream. This was clearly Violet. Post punishment. I wandered if such a creature could come back, be normal, or had I just done the world a very bad favour. Cassie grabbed a rug off a wall nearby and draped it over her sister, stepping in to her field of vision, to try and to calm her.

  Belil had slowly been walking back from the scene. He was at the door by the time I grabbed Michael under one arm to lift him to his feet. Belil smiled at me as he started to push the great door. He meant to close the door on us in this chamber and leave us with the nameless things in the dark.

  Before I knew what had happened, there was a streak across the room and Violet had grabbed Belil. He looked shocked and struggled for a second before she clamped her jaw into his neck and drained him effortlessly. Cassie stood next to me and put her hand on my shoulder as I watched Violet bring Belil to his knees, and then to the floor. As she drained him Violet’s skin started to repair and her hair was growing in front of my eyes, growing through, thick, fast and a mass of black curls. She stopped drinking and looked at us. Violet then proceeded to tear the head from Belil’s body with a cracking sound resounding out with a growl that emanated from Violet’s throat.

  “Well, guess I’m off the hook.” I said aloud. I wondered again from the look in Violet’s eyes what time in a place like she was held captive in would do to someone. Let alone someone who already had supernatural powers. Clearly she was stronger than the others, even Belil. I wasn’t all that confident she was thinking straight either. Were we next?

  Cassie’s voice interrupted my thoughts: “Take him.” She said regarding Michael, “Get him out of here. Others will be coming” She nodded toward the creatures in the corner, gaining confidence and edging towards us. “We’ll be right behind you.” she said moving towards her sister with the blanket.

  I dragged Michael towards the exit. As I passed through the doorway Violet grabbed the carcass of Belil and threw it in to the roof sending piles of dirt falling and spoiling the patterns carved into the roof. The door opened seemingly by itself until I saw Viktor there. He pointed across the way “Take the back exit.” Viktor’s advice was followed without question and it took us straight into the parking lot and to my long lost car.

  As I left I had Michael in tow when I saw three dark shapes that looked like humans but didn’t move like them
. They entered the building and almost immediately after, I heard screaming. I knew instinctively it was Cassie though it would have been hard to tell from the sharpness of the sound. I slumped Michael in to the back seat of the car and ran to get in to the driver’s side where the keys awaited me in the ignition. I heard the screams again while Michael murmured from his stupor. “Get me out of here Matt, please let’s go”.

  I turned the key, then slammed the wheel with my fist in frustration as the engine kicked into play. I knew I shouldn’t go back. I knew I didn’t owe her anything. She got me in this mess, got Michael in this mess. But I felt her. I felt her scream and I abandoned the car to head back in. Michael grabbed me through the window: “You can’t go back in there. Are you nuts, let’s just go…. They can take care of themselves, or not. It doesn’t matter. Get me out of here, we need to get anywhere else but here”.

  I leaned in the window and grabbed his hand on my sleeve to pull it away gently “I have to go back and get her. I can’t leave her. Just stay for a few minutes, and I’ll be right back, I promise.” He limply lay back in the seat.

  When I arrived Viktor was gone and I found Cassie, my Cassie, staked in both shoulders to a wall. She was screaming from obvious pain and the whites of her eyes had turned red. She could hardly choke out a word, but I knew she saw me and she shook her head at me. Violet was being cornered by two of the three, a semi circle of fire burning in front of her. She was hissing like a cat about to be drowned in a bucket while Cam lay on the floor behind her looking still. The third was standing in front of Cassie and must have noticed her field of vision focus on me. He turned suddenly, but just as quickly I moved forward, tore a stake from her shoulder and pinned him through the neck to the wall. He twitched, shuddered, then became still. I heard the now familiar crackling sound of his skin drying, dying as the blood dripped down the wall behind him. Just then Cam started to stir as the two others became distracted from trying to subdue Violet, by my staking their kin.

  In a fit, Violet lunged at them, near unstoppable, and threw the one closest over my head and against the back wall. He bounced and the crack of his bones echoed through the room, though I understood immediately that was the end of him. Her strength rivalled mine. Cassie pulled the remaining stake from her other shoulder and dropped to the floor letting it rattle across the concrete to land at my feet. In an instant I grabbed it and rushed at an approaching vampire behind me, shoving the stake through his heart. He groaned and crackled then fell to the floor, unmoving.

  Cam was coming to, and Violet had now cornered the last guy. I didn’t need to guess what happened next. There was a screech, a groan and the sound of sinews and tendons being ripped before silence. I helped Cassie up, with Cam and Violet following right behind us.

  I saw Violet pause in our retreat to pick up a barrel stacked at the side of the inside of the doors. It was filled with some liquid, petrol most likely, and she threw it in to the back of the room. It was followed by another, and Cam took a lighter from the pocket of one of the bodies near the door and tossed it. We barely made it out before there was a blast and searing heat could be felt at our backs. In response there were screams and people ran out from every exit, some as fast as vampires, others obviously human.

  By the time we reached the car I realised one of the doors was left open. Michael was gone. I looked blearily and hopelessly into the dark, as I helped Cassie into the front seat. Cam was already cooing over Violet in the back. I turned to Cam and held out my hand to give her the keys. “Take them, I have to find Michael” But she grabbed my wrist instead. She looked at me seriously and I felt a chill. I already knew what she was going to say before she said it:

  “It’s too late.”

  “I have to at least try!” I blurted taking a step back towards the building. Another explosion ripped out and Cassie grabbed my arm in warning. “I haven’t come this far to leave him behind now.” She repealed her hand from my arm as she saw the earnest look upon my face, allowing me to run back in to the crowds to search for Michael.

  People were screaming, running and pushing eachother about everywhere. I stood firm, knowing if I could just focus I would see my friend amongst those in the crowd. Why he would leave us was beyond me. Why would he return to the affray when we were so close to getting away.

  Finally I spotted him heading for a side door from where smoke billowed. I was there in an instant, taking him by the shoulder and spinning him around to face me. “What are you doing?!” I demanded of him.

  As though in a trance Michael seemed to look right through me. “I just had to get back in there.” he mused.

  “Why?” I asked again placing my hand on Michael’s shoulder. Michael looked at my hand then back at me, anger now etched in his expression.

  “Let go of me.” He shouted and I knew then that this was something more than shock or confusion. His behaviour was being driven by something ethereal.

  I removed my hand from his shoulder. “Something’s wrong with you Mike. A minute ago you couldn’t wait to get out of there. There nearly killed you. Come with me now.”

  Michael’s face darkened. “Make me.” With that Michael shoved me, his eyes slanted, his jaw tight, and I noticed bloodstains left on my shirt from his hands.

  “Look around you. The place is burning. You're not thinking straight. Michael. It's me. Let's just get out of here.”

  Michael, calmed and started to look about him as though realising where he was finally. He nodded absentmindedly and let me lead him back to the car where he sat staring out the window at the still dark early hours of the morning.

 
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